Jewish Teacher Strikes New Blow in Gay Marriage Fight — Eyes Supreme Court

Helena Miller Suit Could Prompt Same-Sex Nuptials Decision

Happily Married: Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry celebrate their wedding in 2010. They are fighting to force Pennsylvania to recognize their union.
courtesy of aclu
Happily Married: Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry celebrate their wedding in 2010. They are fighting to force Pennsylvania to recognize their union.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 09, 2013, issue of July 12, 2013.
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Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that permits neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions. It’s one of 35 states in America that bars gay marriage in its state constitution or in state law. Pennsylvania’s anti-same-sex marriage law was passed the same year as the federal DOMA.

“We do find it kind of upsetting that we made a decision to move to Pennsylvania to be closer to family, and to make a tighter family… but at the same time, because we’re in Pennsylvania, we’ve become less of a family legally,” Miller said. “We’ve become unmarried, I guess you could say.”

Miller gave birth to Zivah in May. She’s already brought Zivah to her synagogue, where the rabbi stopped the service to introduce her to the congregation.

Yet under Pennsylvania law, Zivah is not yet Raspberry’s daughter. The couple has hired a lawyer separately from this case to help them undergo a process called second-parent adoption, which will give Raspberry parental rights to Zivah.

Miller said that she and her wife are eager to be plaintiffs in the suit — even though they admit they are far from rabble-rousers.

“We’re actually quite boring people and just normal, in my mind,” Miller said. “I think that we are very happy and honored to be part of this effort.”

Though planning for the suit has been ongoing for months, attorneys involved said that they were eager to hear the result of the DOMA decision, and the complaint cites Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Windsor decision.

“In Windsor, the court specifically observed that laws of this type have the purpose and effect of injuring and disparaging lesbian and gay couples,” said Leslie Cooper, an attorney trying the case for the ACLU. “We think that applies equally to the Pennsylvania exclusion.”

At the press conference announcing the suit July 9, ACLU attorneys also announced two other efforts to challenge state gay marriage bans in federal court. One ongoing case in North Carolina will be amended to include a marriage claim, and the ACLU will file a new case in Virginia in the coming weeks.

“I’ve been in the public eye a lot, and I know the importance of doing these kinds of cases right, and that’s what we’re doing,” Aronchick said of the Pennsylvania case. “This is going to be a national case; it’s going to be viewed as such.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


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